One of the finest cycling routes in the northeast of Italy is this bike route that runs along the Mincio River, which has its source from Lake Garda at Peschiera, and from there reaches Mantua, where it forms the three “lakes” that surround the “city of the Gonzagas”. Shortly after Mantua the Mincio flows into the Po.
There are several variations of this cycling route that have been created over the last decade. Currently (2010) the primary variant is considered to be the one that leaves from the train station at Mantua, crosses the three lakes, follows for a few miles through the countryside north of Mantua along irrigation canals, and joins up with the Mincio at Pozzolo. From Pozzolo the bike route follows the Mincio all the way to Peschiera, at first along the east bank, and for the final distance along the west bank. In other words, it is only the stretch from Pozzolo to Peschiera that actually follows along the Mincio, giving the name Ciclopista del Mincio.
Here are the descriptions of the various Mincio bike routes that I have tried:
For the most part, the bike route follows the roadbed of the former Mantua-Peschiera train line, which was decommissioned in 1967.
In the nineteenth century the Austrian Empire constructed a series of fortifications at: Mantua, Peschiera, Verona, and Legnago; these formed a square, hence the name il quadrilatero. Many towns in this area bring to mind the battles of the war for Italian independence: Goito, Custoza, Solferino. Today we can follow peacefully the sides of this quadrilateral and its places, but along tranquil bike paths.
In addition to Palazzo Ducale, architects will want to visit: Palazzo del Tè, Giulio Romano's masterpiece on the outskirts of Mantua, ideally reachable by bike; two churches by Leon Battista Alberti; and additional works by Romano.
*Less famous, perhaps, than their Shakespearean counterparts – the Montagues and the Capulets – during the middle ages, the Scaligeri family ruled Verona and Vicenza while the rival Gonzaga family ruled Mantua.